Judge tosses most of DOJ challenge to California 'sanctuary' laws

By Ray Downs  |  July 9, 2018 at 11:02 PM
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July 9 (UPI) -- A federal judge on Monday dismissed several parts of the Justice Department's lawsuit against California for its so-called "sanctuary" laws, which seek to limit federal power in enforcing immigration laws in the state.

Since the election of President Donald Trump, California lawmakers have passed several sanctuary laws, leading to a lawsuit filed by the department in March to weaken or invalidate those laws.

U.S. District Judge John Mendez dismissed the argument against three of those laws, giving states a stronger stance to limit federal enforcement of immigration law.

"The Court does not find any indication in the cited federal statutes that Congress intended for States to have no oversight over detention facilities operating within their borders," Mendez wrote in his opinion.

On California's Senate Bill 54, which prohibits state and local law enforcement agencies from using public funds to investigate, interrogate, detain, detect, or arrest persons for immigration enforcement purposes, the department challenged part of the bill that restricts authorities from sharing release date information of jailed immigrants with federal agents.

The Justice Department argued this provision violates the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which establishes that federal law takes precedence over state law. Mendez disagreed, writing that "information regarding immigration or citizenship status does not include an immigrant's release date or home and work address."

The department also challenged Assembly Bill 103, which restricts state and local agencies from entering into contracts with the federal government to detain immigrants and requires a review of those facilities. But Mendez again ruled that the provision doesn't violate the Supremacy Clause.

California's Assembly Bill 450 includes a provision that requires employers to provide notice to employees of immigration inspections. In its challenge to the law, the department argued: "It would be unthinkable for a state to require that suspects be warned of upcoming criminal investigations by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, or that suspects be kept up to date on the results of investigative work done by the Bureau."

Mendez disagreed with the characterization of the provision and said it does little more than extend the notice given to employers, who are the "primary targets" of the inspections.

The department also challenged part of the law that prohibits employers from allowing federal officers to enter a place of labor without a warrant and prohibits employers from re-verifying immigration status of current employees unless required by federal law.

Mendez agreed the Trump administration had a "plausible claim" against these parts of the law and let them stand.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra praised the ruling.

"Today's decision is a victory for our State's ability to safeguard the privacy, safety, and constitutional rights of all of our people," he said in a statement. "Though the Trump administration may continue to attack a state like California and its ability to make its own laws, we will continue to protect our constitutional authority to protect our residents and the rule of law."

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